Two men hold an egg at one another's forehead

British Film Institute to host Queer East Festival this month

This month the British Film Institute will present the Queer East Festival which aims to utilise the arts to push boundaries within queer cinema.

The fifth anniversary of the festival will see just under 100 film titles spanning across more than 60 years of filmmaking.

The celebration of Queer Asian media will also see the very first launch of the inaugural visual artist exhibition, Shedding Selves, hosted at London’s alternative queer space, Ugly Duck.

The London based arts organisation supports under-represented voices and emerging artists, aligning with the festival’s core values by accepting film applications from those yet to make a name for themselves.

Festival and programme director, Yi Wang, said: “Queer East was made by the communities for the communities.

“Its establishment is a direct response to the systemic lack of Asian representation on the big screen.”

Whilst Wang hopes the festival will amplify the voices of Asian and queer communities in the UK, he also believes that it is vital to have authentic racial and sexual representation.

The festival builds on its predecessors, with Wang suggesting the small team are genuinely excited to present their most extensive program yet.

The festival and programme director said that the festival was inspired by his personal experience as a filmgoer and consequential realisation that in the UK there is a noticeable lack of east and south-east Asian queer films and cultural events.

Wang said: “Queer representation in the media is strongly linked to the wider public’s views on LGBTQ+ communities.

“I feel it is crucial that we bring more on-screen representation of queer Asian and diaspora communities to uplift their voices, and bridge the cultural distance between Asia and the wider society.”

The workload for the festival is intense for the small team that work throughout the year to ensure its success.

Wang added: “I would say it’s pretty much a 24/7 job, as an independent festival with limited resources, myself and a small team work throughout the year to prepare for the festival, alongside other year-round events and community engagement work.”

Two women hold hand with a fence in between
A still from Saving Face, one of the films to be screened at the festival Credit: BFI

Wang noted that Asian people are among the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the UK.

He added: “Nuanced representations of Asian communities are still rare, and it seems that we still lack understanding about these communities.

“For me, the first step towards raising public awareness and broadening the conversation on the queer community is stories and voices being seen and heard.”

Wang gains inspiration for the event by attending film, arts and cultural events to connect with potential filmmakers, artists and creatives.

They also accept submissions for smaller projects to encounter works that otherwise would remain undiscoverable.

The project has so far screened more than 350 films, collaborated with 42 venues across 23 cities and welcomed upwards of 30,000 audience members to its events.

The BFI Audience Projects Fund has been awarded National Lottery funding, furthering the reach of the arts to a wide and diverse audience across the UK.

The festival will explore what it means to be queer and Asian today from 17-28 April.

Featured image credit: BFI

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